It was Karl Lagerfeld’s final curtain — even though he was missing.
Celebrities, supermodels and the fashion industry gathered at Chanel’s catwalk show Tuesday to bid adieu to the iconic couturier, who died last month and did not want a public funeral.
Many guests wept as his final collection for the Parisian house, co-designed by new artistic director Virginie Viard, was presented at Paris’ Grand Palais amid a cinematographic set: a mountain village covered in peaceful snow. A one-minute silence was held by his friends and peers.
Some of Tuesday’s highlights at Paris Fashion Week:
LAGERFELD’S FINAL SEND OFF
Designer Lagerfeld had made his antipathy for a public funeral clear. So Chanel’s fall and winter show, the last collection of a couturier that designed hundreds in a six-decade career, was a fitting send off.
The display featured both genuine emotion and ironic spectacle, Lagerfeld’s trademark.
Ahead of the runway show, its models, including actress Penelope Cruz, stood solemnly in the fake snow by an Alpine chalet and resting ski equipment. A gentle bell rang out as poignant recordings of Lagerfeld’s voice boomed out and echoed across the vast venue.
Guests including actresses Marion Cotillard and Kristen Stewart, models Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell, singer Janelle Monnae and U.S. Vogue Editor Anna Wintour observed a one-minute silence. Many wept.
In a moment that perfectly captured Lagerfeld’s universe, the initial silence was interrupted by the bark of a small white dog kept in a sparkling Chanel shopping basket.
A CLASSIC CHANEL COLLECTION
The show used the Alpine theme as a touchstone to produce a classical Chanel winter collection.
It was all about keeping warm, with short ankle boots protected beneath tweed fedoras in looks the house said belonged to “elegant mountain dwellers.” Oversize, woolen statement coats that hung heavily had a distinct historic feel, a mood that Lagerfeld often liked to evoke.
They were twinned with contrasting patterns — such as houndstooth in thick, baggy pants — to produce a clever visual kinesis.
Ethnic and Alpine motifs fused as white patterning on cinched and belted A-line skirts, and ski-wear came in eye-popping hues of pink, blue and red.
The obligatory tweed jackets this season were trimmed with a thick wool braid.
THE FUTURE FOR CHANEL
This was the first official collaboration between Lagerfeld and his longtime studio head Virginie Viard, who will succeed him at the house.
Much like the Chanel designs, the creative handover appeared seamless.
It’s perhaps unsurprising: Although Viard has held no official role as designer until now, she is known to have worked closely with the late designer across all of Chanel’s numerous design channels, including couture.
It’s too early to tell if Viard will lead the powerhouse in a new direction, but signs are that she won’t.
The fact that Chanel chose someone who has worked in exuberant Lagerfeld’s shadow for years indicates it hopes to continue his financially successful vision and approach that catapulted the iconic house from the creative wilderness during the 1980s into the multibillion dollar powerhouse it is today.
Management could have chosen a successor with a big, splashy name — such as Lanvin’s former designer Alber Elbaz, an icon in the industry, who’s currently unemployed.
The fact they didn’t speaks volumes.
STARS REMEMBER LAGERFELD
Penelope Cruz, who modelled in the Chanel show, shared a memory of a midnight walk with Lagerfeld in New York in December.
“For me that was a magical moment, walking hand in hand in Central Park at night in winter — hearing his wonderful and funny stories,” she said.
Cruz said she will remember the kindness of Lagerfeld, whom she’d dreamt of meeting since being little. She recalled that he took care of her father during a posh Paris dinner.
“How kind and respectful he was to my dad, even if they didn’t speak the same language — that always stayed with me,” she told the AP.
American singer and songwriter Janelle Monnae spoke of her surprise at being given a sketch Lagerfeld had drawn of her during a performance in Russia.
“He was seated in a theater. I was on stage. And he sat there the whole time and sketched me dancing,” she said. “I didn’t know his talents were so big.”
Monnae said she still has it “in a little box in my house. It’s very emotional.”
German fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth recalled how she would always speak with the polyglot German-born designer backstage after each Chanel show comparing it to “being in a bubble in between thousands of people.”
She said that Lagerfeld, who famously hid behind shades — known as his mask — once took them off in front of her.
She said he turned to her and said: “I don’t like to show my eyes because they look sad.”